Ways To Actively Bring In The School Year

If you are looking for tips on how to incorporate out{side} time when school is back in full swing, this is the article for you.

By Courtney Johnson
Explore Ambassador

The back-to-school countdown is beginning across the country. Families have bought new clothes or uniforms. School supply lists have been crossed off. Kids are anxious to see who their teacher is and whether their best friends are in their class. Celebrate going back for another fun-filled year of learning while taking in some vitamin D. 


Spend A Day Doing Your Favorite Outdoor Activities

Did the summer get away from you before you got to some of your favorite outdoor activities? Maybe you only got out on a paddle board one time, but you would have liked to do it more. Perhaps the bike park in town hasn’t seen your two wheels yet this summer. Do you still need to complete some summer bucket list items? Plan an all-out adventure day where you combine all the activities you love. Start the day riding your bike to your favorite fishing spot. Hit the spray to cool off on a waterfall hike or paddle to an island and have a picnic lunch. The ideas are endless, and the memories will be priceless.


Hold A School Supply Scavenger Hunt

A backyard, neighborhood or park is the perfect place to have a school supply scavenger hunt. Place supplies high and low: behind trees and bushes, under a rock, behind a pillow on a patio chair, at the top of a play structure — these are just some of the places to hide brand-new markers, pencils or erasers. You may want to create clues to help your hunters find each item. Create a simple checklist on the computer to mark off each item that is found. Have your little learners carry a backpack to put the supplies in as they find them.


Blind Them With Science

Get in the mode of learning again with a day of outdoor science experiments or by participating in citizen science. Turn a day doing your favorite activities in the sun into a learning experience from start to finish. Make predictions, list materials, test different hypotheses and then reflect on findings, all while enjoying nature. We love the simple science experiment sheet here.
Head to your favorite state park trail and see what kind of prints you can make with sun art print paper. Collect rocks (if allowed), break them apart and study the properties. Want to spend the last days of summer in the sand or splashing in water? Collect shells to make crystal seashells or make a sand volcano. Fly a kite and learn about physics or just simply watch the clouds and observe the different kinds of clouds there are. Create a solar oven and cook up some dessert. Collect pine cones and use them to predict the weather. Geocaching is another idea for challenging the body and mind. For citizen science ideas, check out this article.


Plan A Back-To-School Bash At A Park

Choose to gather friends before school officially starts or maybe plan a playdate after the first day of school. Even surviving the first week back calls for a park celebration. It’s a great opportunity for kids to see friends they haven’t seen in a while and get back into socializing, unstructured play and sharing. It even gives parents some much-needed adult interaction time that may have been suppressed while the kiddos were home all day for a few months.


Take In The Sunset The Night Before School Starts

Spend school year’s eve watching the last sunset of “summer.” Pack a picnic dinner, take a hike on a trail that takes you to the views and enjoy the last of the sun’s rays. It’s a perfect time to chat about the highlights of the summer and maybe even some goals for the new school year. Enjoy the screen-free time watching one of life’s simplest pleasures before sports, homework and carpool dominate your time.


Make A Plan To Ride/Skate To School

Whether you like two wheels, three wheels or four wheels, create a schedule to get to and from school via bike, scooter, roller skates or skateboard. Maybe you want to make a goal of going car-free to school five times a month or maybe twice per week. Print out a calendar or add days to skate or ride to school to the calendar you already display on the fridge. Riding to school allows kids to get out some of that early morning energy to help them focus when the school bell rings. Some districts even have programs to promote getting to school without the use of a car, like Safe Routes to School in Colorado. For tips on rolling and riding to school, head here.


Schedule Weekly Outdoor Time

While commitments tend to escalate during the school year, there is no need to let go of the healthy benefits one gets from spending time out in the fresh air. Take some time to chat with your kids about how they want outdoor play to fit into the school year. Maybe it’s getting in an hour of unstructured play before dinner. Perhaps adding a post-dinner walk three times per week is an idea you like. Take that 20 minutes of nightly reading up a notch by setting up a hammock in the trees to read from, or hike to a picnic spot and sit down and enjoy a book at the table. Better yet, pick books for the reading log that have a nature and/or outdoor adventure theme. Choose one day of the weekend to fill the soul by doing some of your favorite outdoor activities. If scheduling time during the week is beneficial, then add that time to a calendar to make sure you get it in. Outdoor time might be just what the family needs to decompress from the stress of school and work.

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